Children and Social Work Act 2017
3 minute read
The Government introduced the Children and Social Work Bill to Parliament in December 2016.
Family Rights Group welcomed some measures in the Bill, including the publication of corporate parenting principles and a requirement on local authorities to set out which services it offers to care leavers. We pressed for a number of amendments or new clauses in the Bill. These focused on:
- Kinship Care
We argued for amendments which would enable more children to be safely raised within their wider family network if they cannot remain with their parents.
- Educational support for children in kinship care
We were successful in securing provisions in the Bill for promoting the educational achievement of all previously looked after children who are in an adoption or kinship care placement by way of an adoption order, special guardianship order or child arrangements order. However, we proposed that these arrangements should be extended to all children who are unable to live at home with their parents and are permanently being raised by kinship carers, whether or not they were previously in the care system.
- Sibling contact
We pressed for children in care to be assisted to see and maintain contact with their brothers and sisters. The Government Minister during the passage of the Bill did agree that the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 be amended in order to provide for sibling contact between a child who is looked after in the care system and their sibling(s) who are not looked. But as of Autumn 2020 these regulations have not yet been amended.
- Therapeutic support
We campaigned for parents whose children were permanently removed to have the offer of therapeutic support and counselling to help them deal with their difficulties and their grief.
- Care experienced young parents
We sought additional support for young parents who were care leavers.
- Legal Aid
- we argued for free, independent legal aid for all parents whose child is in care and placed in a foster for adoption placement
- we lobbied for non means tested and non-merits tested legal aid for all parents involved in court proceedings about the adoption of their children. The Government Minister conceded our arguments during the passage of the Bill. In February 2019 the Ministry of Justice in their report entitled Legal Support: The Way Ahead proposed to address this disparity by bringing forward proposals by summer 2019 to extend eligibility for non-means tested legal aid to parents opposing placement or adoption orders. As of Autumn 2020 we are still waiting for this to be implemented.
These issues are summarised in the following briefings:
- House of Commons Second Reading. December 2016
- House of Lords Report Stage. October 2016
- The Children and Social Work Bill 2016: Improving outcomes for children and families
Exempting Local Authorities from Primary Legislation
We were strongly opposed to the proposals to grant powers to the Secretary of State to exempt Local Authorities from Primary legislation.